Last Week in October
Jim "Boy" Menetti's perfectly shaped eyebrows furrowed in concentration as he piped the last of the cream cheese icing rosettes onto his special six layer carrot spice cake. It was a cake his Master loved. Moving his dark brown hair from his eyes he glanced at his best friend, Brian. Jim bit his lush lower lip, and began chopping roasted pecans to decorate the sides. He wished Brian wasn't here. He was dangerously close to losing it; but Bear was upstairs with Reed, so that meant Brian was here in the kitchen with him. The question was could he hold it together long enough for them to leave. Taking handfuls of the chopped nuts he used a template and started to carefully place the chopped pecans around the side of the cake in undulating waves. It was a masterpiece, the best carrot spice cake he ever made. It had to be. Jim was grasping at straws. He was losing Reed by inches and he knew it.
"That's perfect." Brian Murphy examined the cake from all sides.
"I hope so, cub, tonight Reed and I will be together, officially, for three years." Brian watched Jim. In the last months he had gotten to know him almost as well as he knew Bear. Jim was constantly biting his lip. Jim biting his lip was his tell. Something was very wrong in Jim's world and whatever it was had something to do with Reed and Jim making this very special cake. Brian could tell, although the cake was a masterpiece, his best friend's heart wasn't in it. Which was strange. The cake displayed Jim's usual penchant for perfection but Jim's face didn't exhibit the customary joy it displayed when he was doing something extra for Reed that would make Reed smile; especially something as extraordinary as this anniversary cake. It was almost an unspoken plea to his lover. Please see me! Know how much I love you! Brian read Jim very well.
Jim slid a tray of pecans across the stainless steel counter. Brian just managed to catch it before it spilled onto the floor. Jim didn't even notice what he had done. He kept his head down so Brian couldn't see his face.
"Here, make yourself useful," Jim said briskly, "pick out three pecans that are perfect to decorate the top," he said absently as if he were anywhere else but in Indiscreet's kitchen celebrating his and Reed's anniversary by making this exceptional cake that Brian knew took hours to prepare properly. He must have been up all night. Jim was both distracted and distraught.
Brian sorted through the fresh, roasted pecans in a furious search for three unblemished nuts. "What's with you lately, anyways?" Brian asked. "I'm the nerd with the nerves. You're usually cool as a cucumber if you'll pardon the cliché. For someone celebrating an anniversary with a man you love to pieces, you look kind of bleak."
Brian was genuinely concerned. He wasn't a gossip. Brian proved that on the memorable night Jim gave Brian a tour of Indiscreet, the Gay BDSM club to which both, he, Jim, and their partners Bear and Reed belonged. Brian refused to listen to Jim gossip about Bear, even though the gossip would have given him an distinct advantage by imparting some insight into the man to which he was about to commit his life after knowing him for only a few days. Brian didn't listen because he knew Bear would prefer to tell Brian some things himself and for Brian to work at finding out the rest. It was a further test of Brian's commitment to his Master.
Brian had a bone-deep integrity then and now; despite his life as a pampered pet of his "Papa" Bear. Brian wasn't always a pampered pet. Before Bear, Brian led a very rough life, even though he managed to graduate from Monmouth University with a double Master Degrees in IT and Finance. Brian was horribly abused as a child and Bear was trying to make Brian secure in his love and trust. Brian adored Bear, his new life and his new best friend and was therefore upset to see Jim so rattled.
Brian had a keen intelligence and he handled all of Bear's personal investments. Bear's Boy was far more than a pet but was comfortable enough in his own skin that he cared little what other people thought. He was an out and proud gay man with a strong submissive streak. He was made for Bear, just like Jim was made for Reed, if only he could make Reed see it. Brian had a feeling that the shit was about to hit the fan and his feelings generally proved out to be true. This was one time he hoped he was wrong.
Something was definitely afoot because Reed called Bear at the unheard of hour of six a.m. on a Saturday. Reed knew that Bear liked to sleep in on Saturday mornings, and a Bear who had his sleep interrupted was one cranky Grizzly. Bear got Brian out of bed, and told him they had to go to Indiscreet immediately. Bear even went so far as to forgo his morning blow job. Whatever was going on, it was serious and Jim was very edgy and so, from the way Bear tore over here, was Bear's best friend, Reed. Brian was dying of curiosity but he didn't ask questions, that wasn't his style. He usually thought if someone wanted him to know something they'd tell him but this time he was beginning to realize Jim actually required someone to ask him to talk about his troubles and Brian needed to give him the opportunity to talk with the reassurance that Brian would listen and not judge.
Brian cocked his head and waited for a response. If Jim was going to spill his guts to someone and he obviously wasn't going to tell Reed what was bothering him Brian wanted Jim to know he was there for him. Brian watched his friend. His lip was swollen and red from Jim's worrying it with his teeth. If he didn't talk to someone soon, there would be no lip left to bite. Jim was about to explode into what looked like intense grief and despair Brian decided it was well past time to act.
"Spill!" Brian demanded.
Jim sighed. It appeared that Jim knew exactly what Brian was asking him to do which wasn't a good sign. "It's a long story." He sniffled and looked away from Brian continuing to fuss with the cake, dropping finely chopped pecans and placing them to delicately rim the petals of the piped rosettes.
"So, tell me already. It's not like I'm going to tattle to Reed. You, of all people should know better than that."
"I know, it's just...hard, difficult to talk, about, that's all. It's not that I don't trust you, cub."
Brian saw the moisture gathering at the corners of Jim's eyes. Jim didn't cry. Now Brian absolutely had to know what was going on so he could help and comfort his dearest friend.
"Okay, sit." Brian grabbed Jim's arm and pulled him over to the end of the long stainless steel countertop where there were a few stools that the staff used when they were on their break. They were in the club kitchen which Jim ran like an empathic drill sergeant. But this early in the morning, the kitchen was deserted. Brian glanced at the clock, it was 7:15. The rest of the kitchen staff was due in at eight. If he was going to get Jim to talk to him, he didn't have a large window of time to work with.
"Want some tea?" Jim asked, smothering another sniffle.
Brian saw the offer as the delaying tactic it was.
"Not really, but I'll brew you some if that will help put a smile back on your face."
"I don't think that's possible." Jim mumbled. Brian wisely kept quiet. Jim would talk but in his own good time.
Brian picked up the white porcelain teapot kept on the shelf over the commercial gas stove without comment and took it over to the coffee and water urn. Brian warmed the inside with hot water as he'd been taught by Jim many months ago when they first bonded and then Brian retrieved Jim's favorite Earl Grey tea from the shelf. Deftly, he spooned the tea into the strainer that sat just inside the teapot. He then poured the water over the tea and brought it back with some sugar packets, a pitcher of milk for Jim and some cut up lemon from the kitchen refrigerator for him.
"It has to steep...now spill. Whatever is wrong is eating you alive." Brian put his elbows on the counter and held his face in his hands staring into Jim's eyes. It was Brian's seriously attentive pose. And this time, it wasn't a pose, Brian was all ears, his friend had grief and something else Brian couldn't make out written all over his face.
Finally, Jim spoke. "It's Reed. Jack's back." Jim's voice broke and the threatened tears began to fall in earnest.
"Who the hell is Jack?" This was the first time Brian ever heard his name but if he made Jim cry, Brian hated him already.
* * *
Reed Davis was a big man. The Parisian Club Chair upholstered in antique leather had been custom made to fit his six-foot-five, two-hundred-twenty-pound frame. Its twin sat on the opposite side of the fireplace where his best friend, Bear Drummond who was two inches taller and twenty pounds heavier sat sipping on a cup of freshly brewed Kona coffee. Bear knew Reed had made the coffee himself, which was unusual in itself. He hated to wait on himself and he didn't make good coffee. If he was willing to risk Bear's wrath with bad coffee something was really wrong and Bear thought, he knew what it was. He hoped he was mistaken but he had seen it coming. Reed was getting too close to loving Jim and rumor had it that Dr. Jack Leary was back in the area.
He saw Reed pull out his stash of fresh blueberry scones. Bear could tell, Jim hadn't made them. They were sloppily shaped as if someone had made them in a hurry. Reed had to have asked the chef to make them late the night before in anticipation of their talk. If Reed got Bear out of bed on a chill October Saturday morning, he knew to make sure there was plenty of Kona coffee and blueberry scones on hand even if it was bad coffee with bad scones. Reed had tried and that was worrisome. Reed ran his hand through his close trimmed blond hair. Reed did that when he was very upset or frightened. It was the only one of the only expressions of emotion Reed ever showed outwardly, and you had to know him very well to recognize the signal.
Bear could see that Reed was unsettled by watching him twitch. That was a double alarm. It was something he only did when he was about to confront Bear with something unpleasant. The last time Reed had twitched he told Bear he was leaving him behind in Chambersburg to go to college.
Bear would guess Reed never twitched around anyone else. Between running his fingers through his hair and his twitching, Bear knew Reed was about to tell him something he knew Bear wouldn't take well and there was only one thing that would bring that reaction from Bear, Jack Leary. Reed fidgeted, holding on to his coffee cup so tightly that Bear was afraid Reed would break the delicate china cup and cut his hand. Bear looked over the top of his cup and caught the intense stare of grey eyes boring into his own green ones. Bear thought, This can only be about one thing. It had to be Jack Leary...That was the only thing that would draw this kind of nervous reaction from the normally unflappable Reed.
"So what is so important that you had to see me right away, get me out of bed at the ungodly hour of six in the morning on a Saturday in addition to denying me my morning blow job?" Bear demanded.
"It always is..." Bear sipped his coffee and bit into the scone. "You made this coffee. It tastes like piss water. I know Jim's in the kitchen. Call and please ask him to make a decent pot. I should still be in bed cuddling my boy. What is it Reed, out with it?"
Reed and Bear went way back. They both grew up in the Chambersburg section of Trenton where Reed's British parents settled after emigrating to the United States. Bear, whose father was a drunk and an abuser, left home and went into real estate right out of high school flipping houses, while Reed had gone on for a degree in Hospitality Services from the University of Delaware. Bear gave no indication that he was also gay with the same proclivities as Reed until Reed returned from college and Bear sat him down and told his best friend what he discovered about himself. Once Bear confessed he was gay with a penchant for kink, he found out that his friend Reed was as kinky as he was.
As soon as they could put the money together, they entered into a joint venture to establish a high class BDSM club, Indiscreet, where Bear, except for training Doms, remained largely a silent partner and Reed with the help of his sub, Jim, ran the show.
"What's complicated?" Bear probed. "The last time I saw your ugly mug with that expression, Jack Leary was in town." Bear watched Reed's face for a moment then growled, "He's back, isn't he? That son of a bitch is back in the area and you've been in touch with him. God damn it Reed, I thought you knew better after the last time."